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Legal Information: Washington

Custody

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Updated: 
December 5, 2019

Who can be part of the parenting plan?

The judge will try to incorporate both parents into the parenting plan.  However, if one parent is unfit, a judge can award all of the parenting time and decision making authority to the other parent.1

In addition, a non-parent with a significant connection to the child might be able to ask for custody. A petition for non-parental custody must be filed where the child lives, and only if the child is not in the physical custody of one of its parents, or if neither parent is a suitable caregiver.2  Custody will be determined in the best interests of the child.3  For more information see Can a non-parent file for custody of a child?

1 R.C.W. § 26.09.191
2 R.C.W. § 26.10.030(1)
3 R.C.W. § 26.10.100

What are other factors that may limit a parent's right to decision-making or residential parenting time?

A judge may limit a parent’s contact or responsibilities with the child if any of the following factors exist:

  1. neglect or non-performance of parenting functions;
  2. a long-term emotional/physical impairment that interferes with parenting functions;
  3. a long term impairment from substance abuse that interferes with parenting functions;
  4. absence/impairment of emotional ties between parent and child;
  5. the use of conflict by the parent, which creates the danger of serious damage to child’s psychological development;
  6. a parent has withheld the other parent’s access to the child for a long period of time without good cause; and/or
  7. other factors that may negatively affect the child.1

1 R.C.W. § 26.09.191(3)

Can a non-parent file for custody of a child?

In Washington state, a non-parent can file a non-parental custody action in the county where the child is a permanent resident (or where the child is found) only if:

  • the child is not living with either one of his/her parents; or
  • the non-parent alleges reasons why neither parent is a suitable custodian.1

The Washington Courts website has links to court forms that are needed to file a non-parental custody case. WashingtonLawHelp.org has additional information about non-parental custody (but please note that WomensLaw.org is not affiliated with WashingtonLawHelp.org and cannot vouch for the information contained on that site).

For more information, you may want to talk to a lawyer. See our WA Finding A Lawyer page for legal referrals.

1 R.C.W. § 26.10.032